“For folks who are saying Donald Trump is trying to make inroads for Black voters; well, he’s telling Black voters … how he feels by attacking the most diverse city in a state,” Mandela Barnes told theGrio.

Democratic leaders slammed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s recent insult of Milwaukee, which they see as a direct slight to Black and brown communities across the city.

“For folks who are saying Donald Trump is trying to make inroads for Black voters, well, he’s telling Black voters, he’s telling brown voters exactly how he feels by attacking the most diverse city in a state that he is desperately trying to win in November,” said Mandela Barnes, a senior fellow at People For the American Way.

According to reports, Trump railed against Milwaukee as a “horrible city” during a closed-door meeting on Thursday with Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Trump and Republicans tried to clarify that the former president’s remarks were about the city’s crime rate and not the city itself.

In response, Barnes, a former Wisconsin Democratic U.S. Senate nominee, told theGrio that if the “terrible ex-president” wants to assess his hometown of Milwaukee as a “terrible city [and] the same place that he’s gonna be coronated in a couple months, we can reduce the criminal element by keeping him out of it,” in reference to Trump’s criminal conviction and three other criminal indictments.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson, who is Black, also had tough words for Trump after the reported snub against a city that’s more than 42% Black and brown.

“If Donald Trump was talking about things that he thinks are horrible, all of us lived through his presidency, so, right back at you, buddy,” Johnson said during a press conference.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson speaks during the WisDems 2024 State Convention on June 8, 2024, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for The Democratic Party of Wisconsin)

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson speaks during the WisDems 2024 State Convention on June 8, 2024, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for The Democratic Party of Wisconsin)

The 37-year-old mayor later told CNN that he also found it “bizarre” that Trump would disparage a city where he will soon be nominated as the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in July during the Republican National Convention. Not to mention, he said there were “roughly 50,000 people who vote Republican here in the city.” He added, “Politically, don’t bite the hand that could potentially feed you.”

Pointing to Trump’s desire to return to the White House, Johnson said that if cities like Milwaukee are deemed horrible, “we should work in this city and cities all across the country to make sure that he doesn’t have to live in another city that he probably thinks is horrible as well, and that’s Washington, D.C.”

Chris Walton, a former chair of the Milwaukee Democratic Party, told theGrio that Trump’s comment about the city was “100%” about race. He said Republicans constantly “attack, denigrate and berate” Milwaukee, despite it being an “economic engine” for the state.

“It literally produces at least a third of the state’s budget, and they continuously take our money and treat us like s—,” he bemoaned.

Walton also called out Trump and his 2020 campaign for trying to “throw out hundreds of thousands of votes” in Milwaukee County, which is majority Black, based on false claims of voter fraud.

“This is who he has always been. He’s the one who wouldn’t rent to Black people. He’s the one who stood up and said we need to [execute] the Central Park Five,” he recalled.

Walton said this moment is another opportunity for Black voters to reject Trump’s aims to reclaim the presidency.

Residents vote at a polling place in the Midtown neighborhood on Oct. 20, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)Residents vote at a polling place in the Midtown neighborhood on Oct. 20, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Residents vote at a polling place in the Midtown neighborhood on Oct. 20, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

“The Black vote in a place like Milwaukee, same with Detroit, same with Philly, same with Atlanta and Charlotte, we can determine who the next president of the United States will be,” he argued. “We already know who he is. We do not need to go back in that direction.”

By contrast, Walton said President Joe Biden is “actively working for the Black community” and purposefully doing so. He highlighted the administration’s policies like reducing the cost of diabetes medication, cutting Black child poverty in half, appointing a record number of Black female federal judges, and signing the nation’s first federal antilynching law named after Emmett Till.

Organizations like Hip Hop Caucus and People For the American Way are on the ground in cities like Milwaukee, registering Black voters and educating them about the policy issues that directly impact them ahead of the Nov. 5 elections.

“We’re scaling up the largest Black mobilization effort ever in the history of the state, and we’re not talking to the people that we already expect to show up to vote,” Barnes said of efforts in Wisconsin, a crucial battleground state that will help determine the presidential election.

“We’re talking to the people who probably are unlikely to show up to vote or could be easily dissuaded from voting,” he told theGrio. “We’re hitting them with the facts. We’re hitting them with the truth, letting them know what’s up, what’s at stake, and how they can be a part of improving the quality of life for people all over this country.”

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